An Overview of Receipt Printers

Receipt printers are vital for printing sales transaction records. There are a few different types of receipt printers available on the market. Impact, or serial dot-matrix printers, are initially cheaper to purchase, but you must also purchase pins and ink ribbons which add up over time. Thermal printers are a little more expensive, but are faster and quieter.

What's the difference between thermal and impact printers?

Thermal printers produce a printed image by selectively heating coated thermal paper (receipt paper) when the paper passes over the thermal print head. The coating turns black in the areas where it is heated, producing an image. Two-color direct thermal printers are capable of printing both black and an additional color (often red), by applying heat at two different temperatures. Since the paper is heat sensitive there is no need to purchase ribbons. Thermal printers have a more defined print, are quieter, and are usually about seven times faster than other printers used in point of sale.

Impact printers rely on a forcible impact to transfer ink to the media, similar to the action of a typewriter. Unlike thermal printers, impact printers require ribbons which can come in two-color or one-color formats.  Two-color formats are typically used so that the printer can print in red for modifiers. Impact printers can also handle multiple copies of paper using carbonless copies so that there are two to three copies for each print.

So which type of printer do you recommend?

We always recommend thermal receipt printers. The quality is better. They print faster. And they print quietly.

What are the name brand printers?

Epson, Star, Citizens, POS-X, and HP all make quality receipt printers. Be aware of knock-off brands manufactured overseas.

Are receipt printers plug-and-play?

It depends. If you purchase a receipt printer separately from your POS system, it will not be plug-and-play - you'll have to install the correct drivers so the printer can talk to the computer. If you purchase a pre-configured system from POS Nation, the printer will be plug-and-play.